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Kandiyohi County to update Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan

In 2017, with assistance from the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, Kandiyohi County created its first Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Now, five years later, Kandiyohi County Public Works wants to update the plan. On Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Board gave its approval for the update, allowing Public Works to again work with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission.

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A man and his dog walk along a county trail near Eagle Lake on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2022, in Kandiyohi County.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — Kandiyohi County is proud of its lakes, parks and trails and the recreation opportunities they bring.

Five years ago, the county decided it needed an established plan for its bike and pedestrian trail network, one that not only mapped out what was currently available but listed future expansions the county hoped to one day complete.

"We wanted to develop a plan where we had safe and convenient bike and pedestrian networks for anyone in Kandiyohi County and anyone passing through," said county Public Works Director Mel Odens at the Nov. 1 meeting of the Kandiyohi County Board.

Odens said the county had been doing improvements to its trails over the years, but not really as part of a larger whole. The plan would assist with making sure the projects were done in a comprehensive way. With assistance from the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission, the plan was created with quite a bit of public input.

"We had really good comment periods," Odens said. "We had, like, 300 received comments."

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The plan was finished in 2017, and the county has since completed several of the projects listed in the plan. Odens said public works focused on loop trails around landmarks such as the county's lakes. It was something the public had wanted.

In addition to mapping out the present and future of the trail network, the plan was also instrumental in the county receiving more than $1.5 million in state and federal funds to complete projects. Most grants require counties to have a plan in place before money is awarded.

"The moral of the story is, it is used. We literally use it every week, every day," Odens said.

Now Odens would like to update the plan so it better aligns with the condition of the trail network today.

"We feel really good about the plan," Odens said. "It is now five years old."

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Pedestrians take a stroll along a stretch of county trail near Green Lake on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Odens said he approached the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission about helping the county with the plan, and the regional development organization submitted a proposal to update the plan for $11,380.

The Statewide Health Improvement Partnership has stepped up to reimburse the county for $3,000 in eligible costs. In Oden's opinion, the cost of updating the plan is more than worth it, when you add in the grant funds the plan makes possible plus the dollars brought in by residents and tourists using the system.

"Our goal is to provide a low-stress network, so people feel good coming here," Odens said. "We have done a lot in the last five years, honestly. I know we have a ways to go."

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The County Board agreed, giving Odens the green light to work with the Mid-Minnesota Development Commission and update the plan. The work will include a couple of public meetings, again to compile public input.

"It is a big deal for tourism in our county," said Commissioner Steve Gardner. "It is good for the business community as well."

The board also had an idea of its own — including water trails.

"I think we have an opportunity in Kandiyohi County, especially in the northern part of the county, to look at potential water trails, as well as biking and pedestrian trails," said Commissioner Roger Imdieke, who pointed to the increased popularity of recreation activities like kayaking.

While the county does have many lakes, creeks and streams that could be used for kayaking and other water activities, the county doesn't actually govern the waterways.

The state Department of Natural Resources has designated 35 state water trails , according to its website. Those trails cover more than 4,500 miles, including in this area the Crow River State Water Trail, both North Fork and South Fork. However, Odens said the county could add into its plan ways the county could help the state create those trails and the infrastructure, like parking and signage.

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A section of paved county trail is shown Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, along Kandiyohi County Road 5 near Middle Lake west of New London.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

"We have a great resource in these little streams and creeks here," added County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

The board was also praised for its vision in approving plans such as the Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan.

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"This County Board and the boards before you have always done a very good job of being forward-thinking and giving the tools to public works and other departments," Kleindl said. "So when an opportunity comes up, if the state or feds have extra dollars at the end of the year, they come to us."

The goal is for the updated plan to continue paving the way for Kandiyohi County to be a draw for all those who enjoy outdoor pursuits, including hiking and biking.

"Tourism is one of our major industries, and this fits with that so well," said Commissioner Corky Berg.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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